It’s Been A Journey Preparing For University With Multiple Food Allergies And Eczema

My eldest son, Michael, will be heading off to university in the fall of 2014. He will be one amongst the many youths eager, excited and yet, a little anxious to start a new chapter of their lives.

Michael’s university experience, however, will have an added layer. What will set him apart is not his average, his sense of adventure or his charm…Michael has multiple food allergies…dairy, egg, beef, lamb, fish, shellfish, peanut/tree nuts, sesame, mustard, and raspberries.

Michael is about to embark on a journey that has been in development since he was born.

As parents, we nurture our children, teach them right from wrong, provide them with choices, watch them fall, help them find ‘their feet’ and pick themselves back up again, guide them, encourage them to learn from their mistakes, remain a strong support system, love them through out it all and then hope that all the experiences they have encountered in their lifetime with us has prepared them to meet the ‘real world’.

For Michael, and many other children, personal medical conditions add another element to their ‘life’s journey’.  An element that ‘stirs the pot’ so to speak. Leaving parents and children ‘grasping for straws’ to find their way.  I look back now and wonder how either of us survived the displacement…it was a time in my life full of confusion.

However, to look at Michael now…I know, as parents, we must have done something right. 🙂

In my eyes, the ‘Grade School Years’ were the hardest…Michael suffered greatly from eczema. (Although, he would argue that having food allergies were worse, but then again, his memory of the eczema years is murky…thank goodness!)

At the time, I felt his food allergies seemed manageable in comparison to the many bouts of infection he endured.  His food allergies ‘took the back seat’ until his eczema started to clear around Grade 7.  Until then, I felt tortured by the fact that there seemed to be ‘no method to the madness’ of his eczema.

My eyes would well, my throat would constrict as I held back the tears while I bathed and creamed his wounded body. 

Below are a list of a few of the posts I have written concerning Michael’s journey with his food allergies and eczema:
Click here for a post I wrote titled, “Talking About Atopic Dermatitis”.
Click here for a post I wrote titled, “Suffocating With Multiple Food Allergies and Atopic Dermatitis: Taking a Breathe In Scotland.”
Click here for a post I wrote titled, “Hockey Dominates Atopic Dermatitis and Asthma”.

During those turbulent years, I would find as many distractions as I could to keep Michael from scratching his already weakened skin…reading, games, puzzles and lots of Barney videos to keep him occupied and entranced.

Once school started, warm classrooms and stress increased his ‘itchiness’ making it harder for him to concentrate.  For many years, Michael and I would sit after school to review the day’s work and practice in a supplementary work book. Breaks consisting of sitting in front of a fan or sticking his head outdoors to cool down were often.

All I can remember at that time was how imperative it was to me that he learn the ‘basics of reading, writing and arithmetic’. I worried that the ‘window of opportunity’ for learning these ‘basics’ would pass him by and he would spend the rest of his educational life ‘catching up’.

I emphasized the fact that everything he was learning was needed for his ‘journey of life’.  He needed to ‘pack’ all that he was learning in a ‘suitcase’ to bring along with him.  No matter how much he may or may not be enjoying the work…he needed to ‘pack it’.

As he got older, I would review what he had ‘packed’ proving just how important he needed each and every step of his learning. For example, knowing how to add helps with subtracting…just as knowing one’s multiplication tables makes division that much easier. Over the years, my metaphor of a ‘suitcase’ became a symbol of his accomplishments.

Michael struggled to do well in school but it wasn’t until around Grade 7 that everything fell into place for him. As his eczema started to heal, he started to sleep through the night. This in turn allowed him to focus better in school and that is when the ‘light bulb’ went off. Everything started to make sense to him…as if the items in his ‘suitcase’ were finally coming together.

The desire and ability to do well finally came together for him. He graduated Grade 8 with Honours and was the recipient of the Christian Spirit  Award.

The common thread throughout our journey has been hope

…the hope that Michael’s choices would not be controlled by his eczema and food allergies.
…t
he hope that his eczema and food allergies would act as a catalyst for learning compassion, building a strong sense of sense, confidence and esteem.
…the hope that he would one day outgrow his eczema and food allergies.
…the hope that he would see his own potential and strive to reach his goals.

So here we are now…Michael in his final year of high school. His ‘suitcase’ has served him well. I know he has all the tools he needs to achieve the average needed for the university of his choice. It’s all up to him. Just one more semester to go.

My hope now for Michael and all youth out there with food allergies embarking on their new paths…universal acceptance.

Times are changing…the more society, immediate family, friends, peers, and educational establishments recognize the importance of embracing our children with food allergies…the easier it will be for these students to achieve their personal goals.

Hope, support, choice, faith and change have played a major role throughout Michael’s journey. They have made him who he is today…a young man with big dreams with the self-esteem, ability and opportunity to reach them…and one proud mom!

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Knitting…A Fun Outlet For Stress

Since January 2013, I began a new journey of stress relief…although, at times, my husband would beg to differ…knitting.

Basket full of wool for my knitting projects

A gift certificate from The Kniterary from my mother at Christmas was the start of my journey.

I struggled through my first set of lessons…learning to cast on, knit, pearl and cast off…my scarf/cowl.

Wearing the knitted hat and unfinished scarf/cowl

Still a work in progress….note the dangling piece of yarn…would like it to go around my neck at least twice.

My second set of knitting lessons at The Kniterary…learning to read a pattern, knitting in the round, increasing, decreasing…finally lead to a finished product…a hat!

Wearing the hat I knitted

I just love this hat…want one in every colour now! Note the addition of the little flower I stitched on the edge.

My third set of knitting lessons at The Kniterary…learning to follow a more complicated pattern (intermediate) involving knitting with a second colour, sleeves, neck shaping, I-Cord trim, sewing seams, blocking…led to my second completed project…a baby sweater!

Baby sweater I knitted

Note the cute ‘flower button’ I knitted to represent a ‘violet’.

Many trips to my avid knitting neighbour, Anna Mae, has led to a new friendship…many trips to The Kniterary for Martina’s calming instructionals has led to a new mentor…many sets of lessons with the lovely ladies in my knitting classes has led to many new friendships…priceless!

All in all I have found a new community of friendships…a kinship in knitting…another outlet for stress!

Knitting is certainly something I never saw myself ever attempting let alone accomplishing. Even though knitting, for me, may appear to those around me as stress inducing… overall, it has given me a great deal of satisfaction.

The creative side of me loves the challenges…not to mention all the gorgeous coloured wool…the social side of me loves the interaction with the other knitters and the loner in me loves the solitude of knitting.

Knitting may have started as another escape from the food allergies, eczema and asthma issues at home…but in the end, it has introduced me to others whose lives have been touched by the many medical conditions that are out there now…it has made me feel so much less alone.

I need to remind myself…although it seems that the grass is ‘always greener on the other side’…it may seem that way until you actually get there.

I have since knitted another hat and taken a ‘cable’ course…gifts for my Secret Sister Swap hosted by My 1/2 Dozen Daily.

Hat and mug warmer I knitted for my Secret Sister

I loved the ‘cable mug warmer’ so much…I bought myself a portable mug so I can knit myself one. It will be perfect to take to the boys’ hockey games next season…the flowers and buttons were my own personal touch.

As for the gorgeous baby sweater…

Baby sweater gift for Violet

…it was given as a special gift for a little girl named Violet.

Click here to meet Violet.

P.S. I am looking forward to my next set of lessons…stripy socks!

P.P.S  Family members will be receiving something extra special in their stockings this year…I have almost finished my first gift.

More Inspiring Food Allergy, Eczema and Asthma Bloggers

I have put together a list of inspirational food allergy, eczema and asthma bloggers compiled from skin and food allergy bloggerThe Allergista and food allergy blogger, Dairy-Egg-Nut.

I have written a little about each, in the hopes of spreading their stories and inspiring many!

I want to thank The Allergista and Dairy-Egg-Nut for posting and sharing their ‘Very Inspiring Blogger’ Award lists. It is a great opportunity to widen our network of allergy related bloggers…get ready to be inspired!

1.  ‘The Other Courtney’…Courtney is an eczema and allergy sufferer…I love her post titled, ‘You Might Have Eczema if…’, totally relatable…it made me smile. 🙂

2.  ‘Linda Sepp Life with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity: The importance of safe housing’…Linda’s life is an eye-opener…Linda is a Canadian, ‘disabled and housebound from severe Multiple Chemical Sensitivities, Environmental Sensitivities, Fibromyalgia, and Electromagnetic HyperSensitivity.’ Read all about her journey by clicking here. The information she has researched will have you re-evaluating what you injest, breathe in and put next to your skin. I had no idea this existed…Linda’s life is inspiring to say the least!

3.  Lifewithfa Life with Food Allergies: A Mom’s Perspective…Alice is a mother of two young boys with multiple food allergies…a combination of 18+ between them! (peanuts/tree nuts, wheat, egg, milk, fish, shellfish, soy, barley, rye, lentils, buckwheat, peas, chickpeas, chicken, turkey, celery and sesame seeds) Like myself, she is often asked, “So, What Do You Eat?”  I can totally relate to her life as a mom faced with the challenges of every day life living with multiple food allergies.

4. Photosensitivity & Solar Urticaria Blog…since February/March 2011, this blogger has been diagnosed with a rare form of Solar Urticaria…she needs to avoid sunlight. Again, I had no idea this existed! Talk about an inspiring girl!

5.  My Food Intolerance Journey: This WordPress.com site is following my road back to full health…Dean suffers from food and chemical sensitivities. Dean is currently taking low dose immunotherapy…click here to read.more.. and trying to heal a leaky gut…click here to read more. I remember when my eldest son was young, I felt he had a leaky gut…I also started him on probiotics (a dairy free version) and EFA’s (evening primrose oil and flax oil)…he is still on them to this day.

6.  Surviving Seattle With Allergies enjoying food to the fullest:  Adrienne writes to raise awareness of the importance of maintaining one’s personal health…her blog is full of her recipes.

7.  Food Allergy Experience: Dainty is a mother of two. Her son has multiple food allergies to…dairy, soy, wheat , eggs, peanut/tree nuts, mango and shellfish. He also suffers from eczema and asthma. To read about her journey, just click here. Dainty posts her son’s weekly menus, shares her experiences of living with food allergies and posts allergy friendly recipes.

8.  PINKLIKEABEACON Topical period Withdrawl-Taking it one day at a time:  at Day 175- 25 weeks off steriods…this blogger’s skin would be a bit of a shock for anyone not familiar with eczema. Reminds me very much of Michael’s skin. It breaks my heart to see these pictures as I know exactly what she is going through. I had no idea, at the time, that there was such a thing as ‘topical steroid withdrawl’. I am now starting to believe that perhaps Michael went through this phase as we weaned him off his steroid creams. If your child is on any steroid cream for eczema…you should check this out.

9.  Allergictolifemybattle Life Can Change in an Instant:  Severe mold in the workplace changed the life of this mother of two…immune system dysfunction, severe depression and near financial ruin. In 2003, she started her book on how devastating mold can be…‘Allergic to Life’ will be available Summer 2013. Click here for her post on her book update…I love the poem she wrote.

10.  Adventures of an Allergic Foodie Don’t let celiac disease and allergies hold you back:  Allergic to asparagus, capers, cashews, corn, dairy, guar flour , kefir, nutmeg, pineapple, rennet, soy, vanilla and yeast..this blogger also lives with celiac disease and Eosinoplhilic Esophagatis (EoE)…she is a girl who in her words, “struggles to eat”. With an autoimmune system that has gone ‘haywire’, I love her mantra, “I don’t believe in whining. I do believe obstacles are put in our lifepaths for a reason-and I don’t know about you, but I’m not about to let food allergies hold me back!”

11.  adaptingtoallergies adapting our lives and recipes to live safely with severe food allergies:  Melanie is mother to two children…her son JT has severe food allergies and has asthma. Melanie tells her family’s story…she states, ” I have adapted to live safely with food allergies without turning our lives upside down.”

12. The Crunchy Cook Learning to love food again, one allergen/gluten-free recipe at a time. The blogger has a long list of food allergens…gluten(wheat, barley, rye,spelt), dairy, eggs, soy, peaches, pork, shrimp, mushrooms, strawberries, tomatoes, tuna, aspartame, peanuts(life-threatening/airborne level), honeydew, beef, annato, apples, and a sugar, honey and molasses sensitivity. With all these food allergens, I love The Crunchy Cooks attitude…she states, “when I look at all the tasty things that are still options, it makes life-or at least the putting-food-in-my-mouth-part seem more manageable.” Click here for her list of foods she enjoys to eat.

13.  Please Don’t Pass The Nuts (TM) Just because you have a restricted diet, doesn;t mean you have a restricted life. Sloane Miller, aka. Allergic Girl, is my idol! She is the author of the book that anyone with food allergies should read…Allergic Girl: Adventures in Living Well with Food Allergies. I did a reveiw on her book awhile back…click here to read. Her book made me feel better about all that I was trying to do for my boys and inspired me to ‘step out of my box’…something I continue to strive to do.

15.  The Allergy Eats Blog Your Allergy Friendly Restaurant Blog: This site is a “user-friendly guide to allergy-friendly restaurants across the United States. It is a peer-reviewed directory of restaurants – rated by people with food allergies, for people with food allergies.” written by a father of five with three of his children with food allergies. Click here to read more. I love the post he wrote on, “The  Most Allergy-Friendly Restaurant Chains in America”…click here for the post.

16.  It’s A Hard Nut Life is written by a fellow with nut allergies and has a condition called Dermatographia…”too much Histamine in your blood and when your skin gets irritated or scratched, it rises to the surface and causes a little bump.” Apparently, this condition is quite common with people with allergies. Click here to read his post on this condition and check out the interesting artwork he has drawn on his skin.

17.  Ingredients all about cosmetics, chemistry and fashion: Louise has always loved fashion…when she was finishing her Ph.d, she experienced a bad allergic reaction to a skin care product.  The bio chemist in her was determined to learn more about cosmetic products…she obtained a post-graduate certificate in cosmetic science from the U.K. Society of Cosmetic Scientists. Louise’s blog, Ingredients, is all about combining her love of fashion, chemistry and cosmetics…in her words, “My goal is to provide balanced, objective information and product reviews, based on real science and my knowledge of organic chemistry, skin anatomy and biochemistry.”

18.  Allergy Warriors and Gluten-Free Gal For people with a food allergy, intolerance, or sensitivity:  Allergy Warrior Annie is a mother of two…her eldest has a peanut and egg allergy. Allergy Warrior Annie chose her name “because anyone who has a food allergy knows how much of a battle it is to be safe!” Gluten-Free Gal Lizzie shares her recipes, tips and tricks “about living gf in a world where gluten seems to be everywhere.”

I know I must be missing some…please let me know in the comments, of any inspiring allergy, eczema and asthma bloggers that you feel should be highlighted.

Who inspires you?

Cross-Contamination Series: Our Ski Vacation To Stowe, Vermont

Our first real family vacation in years…a ski vacation to beautiful Stowe, Vermont!

stowe vermont

Stowe Vermont

(Ignore the mess I have created above…not sure how to fix…sorry)

The boys were pretty ‘stoked’ to go…Andy and I too, come to think of it!

I felt the excitement hit as soon as we pulled out of the driveway…before that I was up to my ears in the preparations needed for us to have an allergy friendly vacation.

With Michael’s multiple food allergies to dairy, egg, beef, sesame, fish, shellfish, peanut/tree nuts, mustard and raspberries and Matthew’s food allergy to peanut/tree nuts…some thought needed to go into snacks, meals and food prep.

Here is what I did:

1)  I figured out our evening dinners: Sunday (day of arrival), Chicken Fajitas, Monday, Pork Bourguignon, Tuesday, Spaghetti with Meat Sauce, Wednesday, leftovers and Thursday (our last night), fingers crossed, we find a place for a night out for all of us!

2)   I prepped for the meals: I made a double batch of Pasta Sauce and froze it to bring with us. I made a meatless sauce as you can’t bring meat into the States. (The day I made it I saved some sauce and cooked up some ground turkey for a Spaghetti with Meat Sauce meal.)

I made the sauce for the Chicken Fajitas and froze it also.

Luckily, I still have a frozen Dairy, Egg, Soy and Peanut/Tree Nut Free Apple Pie frozen in the freezer ready to bake! It will be perfect for Tuesday’s dessert after our Spaghetti dinner.

3) Friday and Saturday I divided up the baking: Friday I made a few batches of Dairy and Peanut/Tree Nut Free Rice Krispie Squares and 2 batches of Dairy, Egg and Peanut/Tree Nut Free Chocolate Chip Cookies. I also made Giada’s Pita Chips with 2 bags of pita.

Saturday I made Dairy, Egg and Peanut/Tree Nut Free Lemon Blueberry Muffins, Dairy, Egg and Peanut/Tree Nut Free Banana Blueberry Muffins, two loaves of Dairy and Peanut/Tree Nut Free French Stick and two loaves of Dairy and Peanut/Tree Nut Free loaves of bread.

4) I put together the flour and spices for the Pork Bourguignon in a ziplock bag to bring and some granulated sugar in a mason jar for hot chocolate.  Hoping to buy some Hershey’s cocoa. Packed my cinnamon for morning oatmeal and a ziplock bag of air popped popcorn.

5) Extra purchases I am bringing: Decaffeinated Green Tea, Natura Soy and Rice milk, tetra packs of Chocolate Soy Milk, Tortillas, a can of crushed tomatoes, vegetable broth, popcorn, salsa, Catelli Smart Spaghettini pasta, and mini pitas. I am bringing these products because I know they are safe and I don’t want to try different brands.

6) Extras: Tea towels, dish cloths, a few cutting boards, a paring knife with protective covering, parchment paper sheets in case we need to use cookie sheets, a slow cooker for the Spaghetti and Pork Bourguignon dinners and a hot air popcorn maker. Missing from the photo is a kitchen counter cleaner I like to bring to keep things sanitized.

7) The boys are also bringing their own pillows and I am packing a bottom and top sheet to exchange on the bed that Michael will be sleeping in. One never knows what they wash the bedding in and I would like to prevent any eczema outbreaks.

I packaged up all the above in one large cooler and a large plastic container. Nice and easy to pack in the truck. There is, of course, our suitcases…the boys share and Andy and I have our own, our ski boot bags, skiis and poles and a packed lunch for the road.

Whew! I think I covered it all!

We did a pit stop in Burlington, Vermont…Michael was lacking in the clothes department! We managed to purchase him 3 pairs of jeans (he currently fits into one pair). We lucked out…they were all on sale! Boys each found ski goggles also on sale!

Our 'little cabin in the woods' in Stowe, Vermont

After signing in and dropping off our luggage at our ‘little cabin in the woods’. We headed out for the main for the main grocery shop:  fruit and veggies, salading, chicken, pork and ground turkey, cereal, oatmeal, pure maple syrup, bread, olive oil, milk, cheese, mustard, and ham slices. The boys had fun checking out all the different packaging and products available here.

Of course we cannot forget the fun foods…after all,  we are on vacation!  Chips, pop, wine and beer.

Our first dinner, Chicken Fajitas was a hit. Quick and easy to put together… just let the chicken tenders marinade while I cut up the onions and peppers. Sautéed everything up and served them rolled up in warmed up tortillas.

allergen friendly chicken fajitas

They were delish!  Click here for the recipe.

Our first day on the slopes was awesome! The warmest skiing I have ever experienced. After a couple runs we had to de-layer…check out the boys ski look!

boys in their canadian attire skiing at Stowe Vermont

Do you think we looked Canadian?

Packed lunches were brought to the hills. I prepped our dinner for tonight in the slow cooker with the ingredients for our Pork Bourguignon before we left in the morning.  Set on low it braised throughout the day. The smell was incredible upon our return from our day on the slopes! I just cut up some carrots, potatoes and sweet potatoes and added them for another couple of hours.

Allergen friendly Pork Bourguignon in slow cooker

With the warmed up Dairy and Peanut/Tree Nut Free French Stick to dip into the rich broth…we will be eating like kings!

I had hoped to post this morning but our ‘little cabin in the woods’ was a bit too far into the woods to receive the free internet service…so here I am sitting in the main lobby by a warm fire.

I am hoping to finish in time for their complimentary wine and cheese event in the lobby at 5:30!

After dinner, we will be waiting the arrival of Andy’s sister, Shelley and her kids. They have booked at a local hotel and will join us for the next couple of days skiing.

I will be up early, prepping our Spaghetti with Meat Sauce for another days use of the slow cooker.

Well, I better finish up…people are milling about and I do believe it is time for ‘cocktail hour’  to begin!

P.S. Click here for the next post.

March Challenge: My Food Allergy Life Has An Extra Bowl Of ‘Challenges’

Life is full of challenges…and then a life threatening diagnosis comes along.

Living with multiple food allergies, eczema and asthma issues creates an extra bowl of ‘challenges’ for me every day.

In the beginning, these challenges, literally sucked the life out of me. I became someone even I didn’t recognize anymore. I hit some lows that made me question: “Why have I been given these challenges?”

I did a lot of soul-searching during those low times. “Why me?”, crossed my mind constantly. Looking into the eyes of my boys was the spark I needed to refocus. Their unconditional faith in me opened the door to my heart. A glimmer of hope would flicker within me and my ‘down cast spell’ would shatter. My boys fate motivated me to face up to the challenges that life had handed to me.

I am all the better for them.

Understanding the benefits of engaging in challenges led me to sign up for Carla’s @ My 1/2 Dozen Daily’s February Decluttering Challenge.

I really enjoyed participating. It was an unexpected surprise! I discovered an added element of fun I had never experienced before in my challenges. Just knowing that others were participating and dealing with challenges of their own…made me feel like I was not alone in my perseverance.

I felt a sense of solidarity joining this group of ladies. They inspired me and created a sense of accountability.

On that note, I have decided to sign up for Carla’s @ My 1/2 Dozen Daily’s March Challenge Take 3…a financial, personal and decluttering challenge.

Here is how I will break them down:

Financial

-I have $60 worth of PC points that I will use on my next big grocery shop.
-I will not be re-subscribing to a magazine to cut back on my surplus of magazines and to save some money.
-I will collect all my coupons and have a coupon spending day.
-I will strive to have one day out of the week (more if I can) as a No Spend Day.
-I will note all the specials of the week and buy only what we need for the week’s meals.

Update: I actually had $70 worth of PC points that I used on today’s groceries. I also had $5.75 worth of coupon savings. This just made my day! Even the cashier cracked a smile when I explained to her that it was ‘coupon day’ for me and I was so enuthusiastic with my savings! Amazing how the smallest things can give biggest pleasure!

Personal

-I will start my training program for my first 1/2 Marathon Run on May 27, 2012. (details to follow on Wednesday’s post)
-I will be organizing a family trip away for 5 days. This will involve the planning and prepping of allergen friendly food to bring and purchase for the trip.(details to follow on Friday’s post)
-I will look into making arrangements for our family to eat out in a restaurant while on our family vacation.

Decluttering

-I will continue with Carla’s @ My 1/2 Dozen Daily’s February Decluttering Challenge: I have the bedroom furniture ‘switcheroo’ to complete and I have to complete organizing and filing recipes for my blog.

Setting challenges and accomplishing them gives me such a feeling of confidence. Over the years, I have attempted many mini challenges: cleaning out a kitchen drawer, a coupon only shop, and my favourite…taking time out for myself and going for a walk.

Basic stuff really, however, fulfilling mini challenges has given me that extra boost of confidence I so desperately need to get me through the low times.

I know, starting a challenge is a challenge in itself…but it’s those challenges that have made all the world of difference in my life!

Think about it…life would be pretty boring if there was nothing to strive for. Setting goals and reaching one’s full potential takes initiative, determination and willpower…it builds confidence in our abilities.

In a world where food allergies, eczema and asthma leave me feeling helpless…facing challenges has pushed me to take control of my destiny.

Question: Have you felt you have benefited from the challenges that life has presented to you?

My Leibster Award Recipitants

I would like to thank Carla @ My 1/2 Dozen Daily, for nominating me for the Leibster Award.

I am truly thankful and flattered for the recognition.

Liebster is a german word & translates to “good friend” in english, so it’s a pretty special award! :)

Here are the rules!!  There are rules to receiving and accepting this award.

1. Thank the giver and link back to the blogger who gave it to you.
2. Reveal your top 5 picks and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.  3. Cop and Paste the Award to your blog.
4. Have faith that your followers will spread the word and love to other bloggers.
5. Have fun.

My top 5 bloggers, that I have chosen are all blogs that I follow. They are all hardworking moms documenting their journeys’ living with food allergies, eczema and/or asthma.

And the winners are…

1. Anu @ Allergy Foodie recently won 2nd place in the Circle of Moms Top 25 Food Allergy Mom Blogs 2011. She writes about her journey with her 6.5-year-old son with multiple food allergies. Her wonderful recipes are sure to add some extra ‘spice’ into your cooking. Food allergies include: eggs, wheat, soy, dairy, nuts, tree nut, fish and shellfish.

2. Jennifer @ It’s An Itchy Little World was also recently listed in the Circle of Moms Top 25 Food Allergy Mom Blogs 2011. For a complete list click here. Jennifer’s blog is a wealth of information for anyone needing to learn more about living with food allergies and eczema. She blogs about her son’s journey and adds recipes that her family enjoys.

3.  Lindsay @ Frugal Food Allergies writes about learning to live and thrive with food allergies on a budget. She writes about her daughter’s journey with Eosinophilic Esophagitus (EO), includes menu planning and delicious recipes.

4.  Magdalena @ Aiden’s Allergies writes about her journey with her son’s food allergies, her journey as a vegan and recipes her family enjoys. At 7 months, she removed her son’s food allergens from her diet (milk, soy, eggs, sesame and peanuts) and his skin cleared up. Baby number 2 is on the way! Food allergies to date include: milk, soy, eggs and peanuts.

5. Jennifer @ Dairy Free Diner writes about her journey with food allergies. Her son has a dairy allergy and has outgrown a few on the way. She writes about the many experiences she has had navigating the challenges her family have faced and also posts recipes her family enjoys.

Living with multiple food allergies, eczema and/or asthma are challenges that these moms have taken under their wing…they are living testaments that one can survive and thrive.

I am thankful to have found their sites!

I am inspired and admire these dedicated moms.

I gain strength, wisdom, hope and friendship from their blogs…I encourage anyone looking for answers in the maze of food allergies, eczema and/or asthma to check out their sites. 

The thread that weaves between us all is the thread of hope. Passion keeps this hope alive…it is what fuels me everyday. 

These moms are all worthy of the Liebster Award…congradulations to you all!

In the Spirit of Christmas…The Pillars of Strength

What is the Spirit of Christmas?

I believe I experienced it on Sunday evening. Our family was driving back from Matthew’s hockey game and as we turned down our street…there they were…

2011 Pillars of Strength on our street

…The Pillars of Strength…in all their glory!

The ingenious idea for The Pillars of Strength came into fruition last year by our neighbour.

Families and individuals all over the world struggle with challenges…medical, physical, emotional, and financial.

Facing these challenges takes strength, courage, determination…it takes everything we’ve got!

For me, The Pillars of Strength stand tall in their solidarity.

They represent a neighbourhood coming together with all that we have…their presence gives me that extra boost of confidence…they give me hope.

2011 Pillars of Strength on our street

Living with multiple food allergies, eczema and asthma we have experienced our fair share of challenges…but who hasn’t!

On our family’s journey, I have always stressed that there are many families in the world struggling with challenges of their own…there is not a family out there that has been able to avoid them. At times, I believe knowing this has helped my boys get through some rough times.

My husband and I are very fortunate to have purchased our first home in this jewel of a neighbourhood. In the beginning, we were thrilled at the location…home situated in the middle of a quiet street with only neighbours driving by…perfect for road hockey! Nice sized lot for kids and a dog to play in. Close to schools, church, grocery store and a pharmacy.

But really the heart of the street comes from the people who live there…our neighbours.

How does our front lawn magically get mowed… our driveway shovelled on the day that I just can’t get out there? Who can I ask for a cup of sugar on a dime? Lend an egg too?Neighbours!

Last winter the women on our street united and created a schedule of sustenance (soup, casseroles and reading material) for a family in our neighbourhood facing cancer. 

These acts of kindness come from the heart.

The Pillars of Strength are there to remind us all, that simple acts of kindness give more than the eye can see…they remind us of the good in people…they give us hope!

2011 Pillars of Strength on our street.

The Pillars of Strength stand tall for all those struggling with the many challenges that life presents to us.

The Pillars of Strength are dedicated to our dear neighbours who continue to bravely face cancer.

2011 Pillars of Strength on our street

The Spirit of Christmas lives in all of us…may you find your own strength in Our Pillars of Strength.

Hockey Dominates Atopic Dermititis and Asthma

Atopic Dermatitis was no match for my son’s love of the game of hockey.

michael on his hockey cardMy eldest son Michael’s love of hockey, proves that love can conquer all!

As a youngster, hockey stick in hand, he would run around in circles hitting balls. He was labelled…a busy boy. His father, also a hockey fanatic, was so proud.

Christmas 2010, Andy and the boys with their hockey jerseys

Our house is situated halfway down a street that encourages only those who live on it to drive by…perfect for road hockey! Neighbourhood boys congregate outside our house for ‘pick up’ games. I always know where my boys are and I get to know their friends.

No one was more excited than Michael to follow every Canadian boys’ dream…signing up for ice hockey.

At the tender age of 5, Michael’s dream came true…he would be playing ‘real’ hockey.

michael's first year playing hockey

Skates and hockey equipment in hand, he headed off to the arena to meet his teammates, coaches and suit up for his first practice. Proud Mama and Papa followed close behind.

Sitting up in the benches, my husband and I watched as he flew across the ice with ease, weaving in and out of pylons and dropping himself on his knees only to pop back up and race down the ice.  Michael was truly in his glory!

All of a sudden, everything changed. Watching him dash off the ice in a panic, my husband raced around to the hockey bench to unearth the problem. Michael could then be seen frantically disrobing on the bench right down to his long underwear. He had overheated and was in an itching frenzy.

Tears welled up in my eyes and my heart broke watching, what could be, the end of his dream.

My husband remained on the bench after helping Michael to re-equip himself in all his gear. Michael returned to the bench another time to undergo the undressing and redressing routine once again.

Waiting outside the dressing room for Michael seemed like forever. When he did emerge, I enquired, “How was the practice?”. With a smile on his face, he answered, “Great!”

Not once did he ever complain about his overheating episodes. Each practice was ‘great’. There was no question in his mind…he was bound and determined to make it work.

He wanted…needed to play the game.

My husband and I questioned how he could continue this routine during an actual game. We needn’t have worried. Come game day, his on ice times never overheated him and he was able to sit on the bench with his teammates and be ‘one of the guys’. I was overjoyed!

Over time, his need to undress completely at the practices dwindled until there was none.(When I asked him recently, if he remembers those times, he calmly states, “I just got used to it.”

Michael, a boy, with multiple food allergies, atopic dermatitis and asthma living a life limited by what he can eat, wear and do, was determined not to have his opportunity to play the game he loved the most, taken away from him. This was something, he himself could control. He mastered it beautifully!

I am so proud of him! As parents, our instinct is to protect our children. How easy it would have been to say, “You, know…hockey looks like it is not working out for you. Your exertion on the ice is making you overheat and causing your eczema to flare up…I think you should give hockey a pass.”

Instead, seeing how in control he was of his situation, my husband and I let him make the decision to continue with hockey. To tell you the truth, it went unsaid…we just followed his lead…heading to hockey practice and games each week.

The look on his face after a practice/game said it all! How could we take that away from him? No matter how painful it was to witness his uncomfortableness.

Winter 2010, Michael playing hockey outside on my brother's homemade rink

If there is one thing I have learned on this journey of ours…stay focused on the positive!

From this experience…I have learned to never underestimate the power of another person’s determination. When Michael chose to take on his eczema with hockey, it became his journey. We assumed he would not be able to tolerate the implications…we were wrong.

I have always felt that Michael has had to grow up much quicker than most children due to the many situations he has had to endure. I don’t necessarily look at this as a negative, rather as a positive. He has acquired so much compassion for others, benefited from living a healthy lifestyle, and discovered the power of determination…priceless!

Michael is now 15 years old. My husband and I continue to follow and cheer him on at his games. In fact, we are heading to one tonight.

After years of playing defence, he has been moved up to right-wing and is considered in second or third place for goal scoring!

Coaches are informed of all his food allergies, and exercise induced asthma. (Epi Pen and puffer are kept at the ready by the Trainer) He no longer suffers from overheating but needs to take his puffer before each game. Showers are mandatory after each game!

Why did he endure all that he did to play the game of hockey?  “…because it is fun!”

Winter 2010, Michael playing hockey outside at my brother's homemade ice rink

Who doesn’t need a little fun in their lives!

P.S. This post was written specifically for those families with children with eczema. Listen to your children…sometimes they are much wiser than their years…willing to make sacrifices that we may feel are unnecessary… all in the name of fun.

P.P.S. At our most recent appointment with our Pediatric Dermatologist, he examined Michael’s skin and told us that he never thought Michael’s skin would ever look this good. I always believed that the day would come when Michael’s skin would clear…it has taken 15 years…happy days!

My advice… keep the flicker of hope alive, focus on the positive, learn as much about eczema as you can and persevere. Remember…you are not alone!

P.P.P.S. Have you ever questioned allowing your children to partake in something due to their eczema? Does eczema limit the choices that are made? Is eczema controlling your life? Would love to hear from you…please leave a comment.

Questions and Answers: A Teenager’s Perspective: Living with Multiple Food Allergies, Atopic Dermatitis and Asthma

My 15-year-old son, Michael, has lived with multiple food allergies, atopic dermatitis and asthma since he was a baby.

Multiple Food Allergies: Dairy, eggs, beef, sesame, fish, shellfish, peanuts/tree nuts, raspberries and mustard.

Atopic Dermatitis: his triggers include: heat, stress, grass, citrus, cantaloupes, and non-hypo- allergenic detergents (Tide in particular)

Asthma: his triggers include: dust, exercise (over doing it), hockey arenas (over doing it on the ice), colds, really cold air and really hot air (high humidity), and lots of pollen in the air.

I thought it would be interesting to post a question/answer period with my son to get a teenagers perspective on what it was like growing up and living with the tri-factor of the allergy world: multiple food allergies, atopic dermatitis and asthma.

Michael  is entering that stage in his life where studies have proven that teens with food allergies take more risks. Two good sites for teenagers with food allergies are FAAN, The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network and Why Risk It?, at Anaphylaxis Canada. Both provide information for teens with food allergies.

In order to help our teenagers through this period of adjustment, I believe we need to: ask questions, truly listen, keep the lines of communication open, and show compassion, love and understanding. Our children’s’ journey with food allergies, atopic dermatitis and asthma will soon be their’s alone…they need all the support they can get.

So…what is a teenager’s perspective on growing up and living with the tri-factors of the allergy world?

In typical teenager fashion, Michael tended to want to rush through the questions with yes and no answers. A little ‘pulling of teeth’ garnered a few more ‘tid bits’. As you can see from the picture below, we were still on speaking terms at the end.

michael and me after our interviewIn all honesty, I can’t express enough how proud I am of Michael. He has truly been through so much…he deserves a happy ending.

What is your earliest memory of living with atopic dermatitis?

I remember staying home from school because my skin was so bad. It was probably in kindergarten or Grade 1.

Food allergies?

I remember getting my first allergy testing done on my arm. It was very itchy and it hurt a bit. Not like it is now. I like to get it done on my back now because I don’t like to see it. It doesn’t hurt… I think it hurt because I was young and was scared.

Asthma?

Playing road hockey. I remember having coughing fits.

How would you describe what it feels like having atopic dermatitis?

It sucks!

I mean what does it FEEL like?

I try to block it out. I don’t feel it anymore.

What gave you the greatest comfort when you were uncomfortable?

When you sang ‘Ally Bally Be’ to me.

What did you like about my singing that song?

I liked it when you would sing and rub my back. I would forget about the itching and was able to fall asleep.

Did you ever notice a correlation between food and your skin?

Yes. Oranges for sure. I would eat too many and then my skin would go all red. When it was red it was dry and when it was dry it was terrible.
One time I had a whole bag of Swedish Berries and went all red in the face.
Coke would make my skin break out the next day after I drank it.
Yes, we discovered that Coke had caramel in it which can be derived from dairy. After you stopped drinking Coke, the break outs on your hands went away.

Was it hard to focus at school? What helped?

Yes. Nothing helped.

How would you describe the on-coming of an allergic reaction?

I would get a tingling on the tongue. After that I would feel like I was going to throw up and I would.

Were you ever bullied or teased for your skin issues or food allergies? Did you feel different? Were you treated differently?

No, I was never bullied. Yes, I felt different but I can’t explain it. Yes, I think people felt and still feel bad for me.

What has having multiple food allergies, atopic dermatitis and asthma taught you?

To be thankful for what you got: my loving family, everything I have and  am able to do.

If you could give any advice to children and parents of children living with multiple food allergies, atopic dermatitis and asthma, what would you say to them?

It will get better eventually…I think. It wasn’t set in stone that I would get better so…I don’t know. I feel I got lucky getting over the eczema part.

What do you do to maintain your skin now?

I moisturize. I like the Vaseline intensive rescue, extra strength, unfragranced formula. I put it on after I shower in the morning and sometimes at night.

Do you feel safe at highschool?

Kind of because I have friends that look out for me. When someone pulls out something with nuts, they tell them to be careful because I’m allergic.

Do you think it helped that your Grade 8 class was educated along with you on the signs and symptoms of an anaphylactic reaction and how to use an epi pen?

I think they feel more comfortable around me.

You eat in the cafeteria surrounded by your food allergens. What steps do you take to ensure you do not encounter any cross-contamination?

I don’t eat anything that isn’t from home. I use hand sanitizer and don’t put my food on the caf table.

You had an allergic reaction this past weekend from cross-contamination. What did that teach you? (Michael ate plain chips from a bag that were contaminated with a dairy dip that his dad had been eating with the chips.)

I need to still be careful eating foods that I can eat.

Eating out in restaurants is on our to do list. Where would you want to go? What would you want to order that you can eat?

Swiss Chalet. A salad with their Chalet dressing, plain baked potato and a 1/4 chicken plate with their special sauce.

Do you ever get frustrated with your food allergies, atopic dermatitis or asthma?

Yes. I can’t eat stuff, I get itchy and I can’t go as hard as I want to playing sports.

What do you look forward to in the future?

Hopefully being able to eat foods that I can’t right now, getting my asthma under control and hopefully I can improve my skin.

So, what do you think about our interview?

Awful…just torture…it was okay…I don’t know…I don’t know what else to say…are we done?michael in our interview

As he walked away munching a Krispie Square, he said, “I hope I get a happy ending…”

“I do too sweetie, I do too!

Remembrance Day: Today I remember all those who dedicated their lives so we may live a better life…especially Thomas Beaton, my grandfather’s brother. He was part of the Merchant Navy and Fishing Fleets (Part 1) and died August 24th 1944. His name, along with many others, is in the Scottish National War Memorial at Edinburgh Castle, Scotland. I have had the priveledge to visit and surprisingly found his name to the shock of my grandfather…priceless!

P.S. As always, any products I mention in these posts are my own personal recommendations. No one’s paying me to recommend them. They’re just what has worked for our family. Your own needs and preferences may be different!

Coping With Multiple Food Allergies, Atopic Dermatitis and Asthma

A Mother’s Perspective…..

Let’s be honest……living with multiple food allergies, atopic dermatitis and asthma is no walk in the park! Dealing with the stresses that they impose can be overwhelming . How does one cope?

Balancing it all can be a challenge.  One that I must admit I am still struggling with. My advice……find an outlet…take time for yourself.  Write a list of ideas that you would like to do that give you pleasure and follow through on them.

I know, easier said than done…………………but worth the effort!

Some of my favourites are:

Getting outside for a power walk or run. Seriously…this has to be the number one ‘feel good’ thing you must do. From the moment Michael was an infant, I took him out for walks in his stroller with our dog. (Not to mention it was the only way to settle him down for a nap…win/win situation!) Four years ago, I gradually turned my power walking into running. I now run every morning. It helps to clear my head and energize me for the day ahead. I even ran in the 2010 (50:26 minutes) and the 2011 (50:10 minutes) 10 km run for the Allergy Asthma Information Association (AAIA). I look forward to the 2012 AAIA run to try to get under 50 minutes. I also hope to one day try a half marathon! Just get active! The overall benefits for your mental and physical health will have immediate and long time beneficial effects. Just 30 minutes a day is what doctors are recommending…it is do-able!

Reading a good book. As much as I enjoy reading and learning from Allergic Living Magazine or related blogs…sometimes I need a break…cue easy reading! I loved the book The Help by Kathryn Stockett. Perfect timing with the movie out in theatres. Tie it in with a girl’s night out! (It was in the theatres when I wrote this…wait for the rental and have a girls’ night in) My mother, friends, neighbours and I are all recycling books between ourselves. It creates lots of great discussion and anticipation of the next good read! I also recommend these three books written by Kate MortonThe Forgotten Garden, Riverton House and The Distant Hours. I am excited to learn she has another book coming new out at the end of 2012. Until then…any recommendations?

Baking/Cooking: Believe it or not…I love to be in the kitchen whipping up something tasty for everyone to enjoy. It gives me great pleasure! It brings out the creative side of me. Not only that…the look of happiness it brings to my kids’ faces when I create a tasty treat or meal for them…well…it’s simply priceless!

Gardening. There is something therapeutic about tending a garden. My garden is generally perennials with my annuals out front in an urn. In the spring,  I love getting in the garden and ripping out all the spent perennials of the last season to unearth new growth. (I am lazy in the fall and just leave the dead perennials as a protective blanket for the winter) Anticipating the arrival of my tulips that survived the squirrels. Purchasing and planting herbs (basil, rosemary and parsley) and vegetables. (usually tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, sometimes peppers and beans) I get sheer enjoyment from watching the cycle of flowers that bloom throughout the summer. Which reminds me…I better plant my tulips soon if I am to see them in the spring!

Getting together with friends. Whether it is to go for a walk, a coffee/tea, a movie, out to the mall, or a play date with the kids. Find the time to keep friendship relationships in tact.  My friends are a super support network that help me to keep my sanity in check.

Couples Getaway. Find the time to get away with your significant other for an afternoon, an evening, a night or more. Spending one-on-one time together to reconnect is a priority for me. Our favourite get away is to head to Niagara-on-the-Lake. We stay at a Bed and Breakfast (Wine and Country Bed and Breakfast), and bicycle around to the wineries. We love to go during the Wine and Herb Festival which is held every weekend in May. Enjoying local cheese, wine, and our beautiful Niagara region together…heaven!

Girlfriend’s Getaway. My two best friends from childhood live on the other side of the country.(Western Canada)  For the past 5 years, we have made the effort to get together. They help keep me grounded. They make up another support network. (I will soon be heading off to see them. More to come!)

A Weekend with my mother. Spending a girls’ weekend with my mother is very special to me. I call my visits, my ‘Peanut Butter Getaways’. We rent girl’s movies, check out local festivals, enjoy a lunch out, make yummy dinners, take long walks, talk.

Church on Sunday. As a family, we have reintroduced church on Sunday. Personally, that hour in church allows me a time for reflection and gives me a sense of peace.

We must give ourselves permission to step away, recharge, have a break.

I love my family…but I was so caught up in ‘survival mode’, so overwhelmed with chaos…I was scared my love for them could not shine through all the darkness that surrounded us.

For my sanity and for the benefit of others, learning how to balance it all has ultimately had a positive effect on everyone.

Finding balance is not a perfect science. Encountering rough patches is ‘par for the course’…recognizing those times, however, is key in order to rebalance. I am not an expert in this…trial and error are my mantra! I am constantly learning from my mistakes. Such is life.

How do you find balance in your life while living with multiple food allergies, asthma, atopic dermatitis or just life in general?  I would love to hear from you! I look forward to your experiences and your comments!

Speaking of balance…check out Carla @ My 1/2 Dozen Daily. She lives an inspiring life of balancing her food allergies, asthma, chequebook, creative cards and sewing projects while raising a family of 4 children with her husband. She is also currently trying to raise money to help those who also strive to find balance in their lives.

P.S. As always, any products I mention in these posts are my own personal recommendations. No one’s paying me to recommend them. They’re just what has worked for our family. Your own needs and preferences may be different!

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